The drive from Alligator Pond to Alligator Hole and Milk River is what Jamaicans call a “lonely road” (with a shiver of misgiving), but it’s a lovely drive through an isolated area known as Canoe Valley, or the Long Bay Morass, much of it along the coast, with goats and sea birds usually your only company. The area is barely touched by development and remains a naturalist’s paradise, with the dry, cactus-strewn slopes in the west giving way to mangrove swamps as you head further east – brilliant for birdwatching. In several places, you can access the beautiful, completely deserted stretch of brown-sand beach along Long Bay. It’s not really a place to swim – the water is usually rough and currents strong – but it’s a marvellous spot for a walk, with plenty of driftwood and shells to collect.
One of the most picturesque places on the south coast, Gut River runs under the road towards the sea, emerging in a clear blue stream edged by coconut palms and huge aloe plants, where you can swim and watch frigate birds and egrets flap lazily around. Unfortunately, developers have recently taken over the land adjoining and although no current plans are in place to build anything specific yet, they have put up a massive wall making the river difficult (but not impossible) to access. These semi-built structures and the interest of the new owners means that on weekends, especially Sundays, the spot draws a crowd and often a sound system too; best to visit early in the morning on a weekday.